Views and debates on climate change policy
Home | Panelists | Staff Blog | RSS

Post Carbon

Contrarians at the climate-gate


By Juliet Eilperin

The controversy over the e-mails stolen from one of Britain's top climate research centers--a.k.a. Climate-gate--has sparked a new campaign aimed at convincing the American Physical Society to reverse the call it issued in 2007 for a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

Five physicists--Princeton professors Bob Austin and Will Happer, University of Hartford professor Larry Gould, former ExxonMobil manager of strategic planning Roger Cohen and Hal Lewis, emeritus physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara--argue in a letter to some of their fellow Society members that the content of the e-mails pirated from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit "represent international scientific fraud, the worst any of us have seen in our cumulative 223 years of APS membership."

"We have asked the APS management to put the 2007 Statement on ice until the extent to which it is tainted can be determined, but that has not been done," they write, asking readers of the e-mail to reply with "yes" in their response tagline. "We have also asked that the membership be consulted on this point, but that too has not been done."

Happer has questioned the merits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions before, once comparing it to Nazi propaganda.

But David Wright, an APS fellow who co-directs the Union of Concerned Scientists' global security program, isn't convinced the organization should drop its climate policy, and replied to the letter with a "no" in his tagline.

He also wrote the Society's incoming president Curtis Callan, the target of the lobbying campaign, and suggested that if the group is reviewing its climate change statement, he hoped it "will strengthen it based on the new scientific evidence that has come out since the original statement was written."

An APS committee just rejected calls to alter its statement on climate change last month.

The text of the physicists' letter follows:

Dear fellow member of the American Physical Society:

This is a matter of great importance to the integrity of the Society. It is being sent to a random fraction of the membership, so we hope you will pass it on.

By now everyone has heard of what has come to be known as ClimateGate, which was and is an . For those who have missed the news we recommend the excellent summary article by Richard Lindzen in the November 30 edition of the Wall Street journal, entitled "The Climate Science isn't Settled," for a balanced account of the situation. It was written by a scientist of unquestioned authority and integrity. A copy can be found among the items at http://tinyurl.com/lg266u, and a visit to http://www.ClimateDepot.com can fill in the details of the scandal, while adding spice.

What has this to do with APS? In 2007 the APS Council adopted a Statement on global warming (also reproduced at the tinyurl site mentioned above) that was based largely on the scientific work that is now revealed to have been corrupted. (The principals in this escapade have not denied what they did, but have sought to dismiss it by saying that it is normal practice among scientists. You know and we know that that is simply untrue. Physicists are not expected to cheat.)

We have asked the APS management to put the 2007 Statement on ice until the extent to which it is tainted can be determined, but that has not been done. We have also asked that the membership be consulted on this point, but that too has not been done.

None of us would use corrupted science in our own work, nor would we sign off on a thesis by a student who did so. This is not only a matter of science, it is a matter of integrity, and the integrity of the APS is now at stake. That is why we are taking the unusual step of communicating directly with at least a fraction of the membership.

If you believe that the APS should withdraw a Policy Statement that is based on admittedly corrupted science, and should then undertake to clarify the real state of the art in the best tradition of a learned society, please send a note to the incoming resident of the APS ccallan@princeton.edu, with the single word YES in the subject line. That will make it easier for him to count.

Bob Austin, Professor of Physics, Princeton
Hal Lewis, emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara
Will Happer, Professor of Physics, Princeton
Larry Gould, Professor of Physics, Hartford
Roger Cohen, former Manager, Strategic Planning, ExxonMobil

By

Juliet Eilperin

 |  December 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Coping in Copenhagen | Next: Top climatologist wishes Copenhagen negotiators all the worst

Comments

Please report offensive comments below.



Regarding Phil Jones email about using \"Mike's Nature trick\" to \"hide the decline.\" I was finally able to track down Michael Mann's denial of using this trick. He did it on the disinformation website known as RealClimate. Mann wrote:

\"No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, \"grafted the thermometer record onto\" any reconstruction. It is somewhat disappointing to find this specious claim (which we usually find originating from industry-funded climate disinformation websites) appearing in this forum. Most proxy reconstructions end somewhere around 1980.\"

See Comment #5 at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/myths-vs-fact-regarding-the-hockey-stick/#comments

Here Mann is denying the trick Phil Jones says he learned from Mann and that Jones now says is not a deception at all. The trick was used by Mann in 1998 and 1999, by Jones in 1999 (according to the email) and by Crowley in 2000. It may have been used many more times than that.

If CRU is willing to deceive people about the Divergence Problem and conspire to hide the deception with climate scientists (or pseudoscientists) on both sides of the Atlantic, what exactly would be below them?

Posted by: RonInIrvine | December 8, 2009 5:32 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Personally, I think a reassessment is in order but think a great many papers need to be rewritten first. The CRU scandal has made a huge number of papers suspect.

When Steve McIntyre testified before Congress he made three points.
1. The Hockey Stick is not reliable and none of the various efforts to salvage it are reliable either.
2. Peer review as practiced by academic journals is not an audit but something much more limited. In turn, scientific overviews such as the ones produced by IPCC or even by the NAS panel are based almost entirely on literature review rather than independent testing.
3. Climate scientists, particularly in paleoclimate, do not archive their data, metadata and code as is required by journals and funding sources and it makes replication virtually impossible.

The first thing we need to do is commit to making climate science live up to the standards of openness and transparency of science. The journals and funding sources have to enforce their own policies. Second, we need a plan to conduct thorough independent testing of all the critical climate papers. Papers must be replicated or audited with a comprehensive reporting of what tests were conducted. Steve McIntyre has been doing this for years on his blog ClimateAudit but has not published many papers because of CRU gatekeeping. The gates much come down. He probably has 10-12 papers he could submit in the next 60 days. But climate science needs more auditors than just Steve McIntyre. We need a new journal dedicated to independently test climate science papers.

In two or three years, when these efforts have made some progress, then we need a real reassessment by the APS.

Posted by: RonInIrvine | December 8, 2009 4:24 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Gleisner - don't forget the Schoen scandal with dozens of papers based on manufactured data in condensed matter physics (see "Plastic Fantastic", a new book on the scandal, for instance), or the Ninov case with element 112.

Luckily, it seems that normal rational people recognize over-hyped counterfactual alarmism when they see it. They don't see any evidence of it in the hacked emails. But they see a lot of it in claims such as those in this letter:

"a matter of great importance to the integrity of the Society"
"is an international scientific fraud, the worst any of us have seen"
"a balanced account of the situation ... written by a scientist of unquestioned authority and integrity."
"scientific work that is now revealed to have been corrupted"
"admittedly corrupted science"
etc.

In fact, this letter, with its alarmist rhetoric, essentially conspiratorial and accusatory tone, and lack of any direct factual reference to any of the alleged "corruption" (what exactly are they accusing who of doing, when?) is far worse than anything in the stolen emails. Unfortunately, rational scientists are far too tolerant of this sort of fringe activity by partisans among us.

Posted by: arthurpsmith | December 7, 2009 4:31 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Good article, thanks for actually doing some checking.

1) PLEASE edit this post to obscure Callan's email address in the clear. SPAM harvesters look for such things. Try editing to:
ccallan@********.edu

and then noting elsewhere that it is Princeton.edu. That will keep it visible to humans, but save it from the harvesters.

Does Callan deserve a big increase in V*ag*a, etc SPAM?

2) This is only the latest step in a 7+month campaign. For a detailed history, including thinktanks, tobacco connections, who was involved, politics, etc, see PDF @
http://www.desmogblog.com/another-silly-climate-petition-exposed

In particular, one really needs to know that Will Happer is an atomic physicist ... but also the Chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI). If that doesn't mean anything, think about reading the above (or wait a day or two for the updated version).

Posted by: JohnMashey | December 7, 2009 3:56 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Wow, where to start? Well I'll just make two points:

1) Scientists who say the leaked files "represent international scientific fraud, the worst any of us have seen in our cumulative 223 years of APS membership" have forgotten cold fusion and South Korean cloning scandels. So, based on the lack of anything incriminating (other than Phil Jones' request that others delete emails), what we have is skeptic hype with no basis in fact; again!

2) Andy above only wants comments from "APS members with no vested interest" in the outcome. That will be a hard standard to meet when we talk about mass extinctions and the probable death of billions of humans due to climate change. Sometime knowlegable people speaking frankly about their self interest does all of us good.

Posted by: gleisner | December 7, 2009 2:20 PM
Report Offensive Comment

This letter is utterly absurd, on so many levels.

I am especially amused at this line "It was written by a scientist [Richard Lindzen] of unquestioned authority and integrity." "Unquestioned" means no questioning out there. In fact, there is a great deal of questioning of Richard Lindzen that is incredibly easy to find. He argued (argues) against linkages between tobacco & cancer -- hmm, with ties to tobacco companies. There plenty of questions out there as to his work when it comes to global warming.

For example: http://getenergysmartnow.com/2007/04/16/jaccuse-newsweek-harbors-global-warming-deniers/ This provides a decent starting point, even if 2.5 years old.

Posted by: siegead1 | December 7, 2009 11:55 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"But David Wright, an APS fellow who co-directs the Union of Concerned Scientists' global security program, isn't convinced the organization should drop its climate policy, and replied to the letter with a "no" in his tagline.

He also wrote the Society's incoming president Curtis Callan, the target of the lobbying campaign, and suggested that if the group is reviewing its climate change statement, he hoped it "will strengthen it based on the new scientific evidence that has come out since the original statement was written.""
I have no problem with a new statement being stronger as long as its based on an independent assessment of the science by APS members with no vested interest in the outcome, or their biases clearly displayed and the APS membership having a voice on the statement. The current statement has no member input, it is the product of small "tribe" and voted only by Council members with no special knowledge or expertise. It was drafted and voted on in a purely politicized process

Posted by: 123andy | December 7, 2009 11:14 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company